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Friday, February 6, 1998 Published at 04:36 GMT


United mates
image: [ The two leaders share common goals in areas such as education and welfare ]
The two leaders share common goals in areas such as education and welfare

President Clinton's warm Washington welcome for the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, is a sign of the closeness of their relationship.

In their public appearances the two leaders have been concerned with giving each other a good old pat on the back and eulogising the friendly, forward-looking alliance between America and Britain.

They are united by more than their shared diplomatic aims to stand firm against Iraq. They share a common political outlook.

Tony Blair: we think alike (25")
One of the highlights of Tony Blair's visit is to be a round-table discussion at the White House on a new and shared form of radical government, the so-called "third way".

This the name given to a centre-left vision of welfare reform and measured intervention in the free market.

It is a policy approach that does not fit neatly into the left or the right of the political spectrum, so it has been dubbed the "third way".

Bill Clinton: A new Britain and a new America (26")
Shared similarities between both leaders include the fact that they have moved their parties towards the political centre ground and both stressed a moral dimension to their politics.

During the discussions the two will be talking about specific policy details and sharing ideas.

"In both our nations we have moved to build a government for the 21st century, going beyond the dogmas of the past, focused on giving people the tools to make the most of their own lives. A world class education, from welfare to work ... a new Britain and a new America, " said Mr Clinton.

Mr Blair reaffirmed their like-mindedness: "On so many issues we think alike. We are in politics for the same thing, because we want to modernise our countries in preparation for the new millenium," he said.

Shared vision

[ image: Blair and Clinton appear to enjoy each others company]
Blair and Clinton appear to enjoy each others company
They last discussed of their shared vision on subjects such as education and welfare when they met in Britain at Chequers last November.

At the time Mr Blair said: "We have a shared language, we have a shared outlook on many of the issues which face us. We are determined too to share our ideas, our expertise and our commitment to a new era of co-operation and of understanding."

Friday's meeting has been nicknamed Chequers 2. The debate is called a "wonkathon" by the Americans, who call their policy thinkers "policy-wonks".

Mr Clinton's former communications director, Don Behr, said: "You can tell just by listening to those two political leaders that they have a deep affinity for one another and that they have borrowed a great many ideas from one another."

Ian Christie , the deputy director Demos, the British policy unit, said: " I think it is very helpful for politicians to have the opportunity to look the big picture and thrash out the details of the very difficult decisions that are going to face both governments over the next few years."

Trans-Atlantic buddies

The two leaders are also said to enjoy each others company. This was evident on Thursday when after talks about Iraq they emerged to face the public, looking happy and slapping each other on the back.

Both were keen to illustrate their firm friendship, strong alliance and mutual appreciation.

"You have invigorated Britain, issued an exhilarating challenge for a proud people whose best days clearly lie ahead," said Mr Clinton.

Mr Blair in turn poured praise on the US leader. "He never said it would be easy, but he has stuck to his guns. He never promised miracles, but he has delivered progress, real progress for the people who elected him," he said.

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